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Council approves zoning bylaw for new Charleston Homes subdivision

by Chris Daponte

ROCKWOOD - A new subdivision in the south end of this village is one step closer to reality, although Guelph-Eramosa residents and councillors still have concerns related to the development.

On June 28, council agreed to remove the holding provision from the 40-acre property off of Harris Street, which Charleston Homes plans to transform into a 258-unit development including single detached and semi-detached homes, as well as townhouses.

But before any construction can proceed, the proponent must meet all the township’s requirements, obtain approval for a draft plan of subdivision and draft plan of condominium from county council, submit detailed designs and get approval of a registered plan of subdivision.

Township engineering consultant John Burns, of R.J. Burnside and Associates, said it will likely be at least next summer before construction can begin on the property, which has been zoned residential and included in the Rockwood urban boundary for decades.

Township planner Bernie Hermsen, of MHBC Planning, agreed with that assessment. He opened last week’s meeting at the Rockmosa community hall by providing the 40 or so people in attendance with a review of concerns identified by residents at a previous public meeting in March.

Hermsen said 86 wastewater units, of a total 115 available, can be allocated to the Charleston Homes development. That means the project would have to be built in stages as more capacity becomes available.

Hermsen said the developer has included 40 off-street parking spaces, in addition to the 2.5 spaces per unit on driveways and streets, which should help address parking issues identified by residents.

When it comes to possible flooding issues, the planner explained that currently the entire site drains in an “uncontrolled” manner towards Harris Street. Post-development, 85% of the site will be diverted to the storm water management pond, with the rest drained through the Harris Street storm water sewer system.

The bylaw also would designate three acres of parkland and a nine-acre woodlot as open spaces within the development, Hermsen explained, adding the intent is to have the existing stone walls protected “and hopefully enhanced.” Plus, the developer will save as many as possible of the older trees on the site.

Several residents have in the past expressed concern about the density of the proposed development, but Hermsen presented a comparison chart illustrating 6.6 units per acre is “not that out of synch with what has happened elsewhere in the community.”

He recommended council approve the zoning bylaw to remove the holding symbol on the property, but several residents said they would like their concerns addressed before that happens.

One woman said she is concerned the development’s townhouses could attract “ghetto-type people.” Andrew Mulder, Charleston’s manager of land development and planning, said even the townhouses in the development are “very high-end” and likely won’t attract those on lower incomes or those wanting to purchase rental properties.

Several residents expressed concern about the potential loss of trees and wondered why they could not be included in the covenant protecting the stone walls on the property.

Hermsen at first said that was a possibility, but then hinted it may be difficult to include trees in the agreement.

“You’re dealing with a living situation that’s constantly changing and evolving,” he said.

However, he explained that before the land is developed a professional arborist would take a registry of all the trees on the property and decide which can be saved. Between that and individual landscape plans on each property, Hermsen said it is likely the overall “greening” of the property will be improved.

The concerns about overcrowding at Rockwood Centennial Public School are legitimate, White told the crowd, but ultimately that is a school board issue.

Mulder added his company’s development will result in development charges intended to provide additional space at the school. Plus, the Charleston subdivision is not really marketing to families, but more “lock and leave” purchasers without young children.

Councillor Doug Breen said he likes the idea of possibly including tree protection in the agreement, and White said if the township can make it work, it would be willing to do so.

Breen also noted he is still “very concerned” about parking in the development and even more worried about the lack of traffic lights in the area.

“I’m always hesitant to take the first step when we haven’t solved the biggest problems,” Breen said.

The two intersections along Harris Street - at Highway 7 and at the new access road for the proposed subdivision - do not meet provincial warrants for traffic lights, but Breen said that means there is something wrong with the warrant process.

“We need a traffic light somewhere along there,” he said.

White agreed, adding traffic lights are needed in the area, even without the new subdivision proposed by Charleston Homes.

“We should just go out and lay on the road until we get it,” he said. “These traffic patterns are horrific.”

The mayor doubted much could be solved with a provincial election on the way, but said, “We won’t give up on this light.”

Breen asked if refusal to pass the zoning bylaw for the new development would give the township a bargaining tool when it comes to other factors, such as the traffic lights.

Hermsen said he thinks the proposal from Charleston is satisfactory and the traffic lights are a completely separate issue.

“I don’t see a choice [from a planning perspective],” he said.

Councillor John Scott said safety is paramount and encouraged residents to write to the government and their MPP to ask for the traffic lights.

Council unanimously passed the zoning bylaw removing the holding provision from the Rockwood property. Councillor David Wolk was absent.

 

July 8, 2011

 
 

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